I apologize for the click-bait title, but I promise you this is not a ‘researched’ piece, in the sense that you won’t read some trite regurgitation of a trip-advisor review, but my own personal delight at discovering and frequenting five amazing little stores in Belgium’s beautiful little capital. I love Brussels, not only because I was born here but because the city has an uncanny ability to welcome people in its own special way, and being able to find stores like this is telling of this openness. Bref, show me a city with a million inhabitants and this much diversity and I’ll eat my own hand.
These are five specialty markets in Brussels that have such mindful owners, and such a carefully selected assortiment of products that everytime I walk in I expect a surprise, and if I don’t get it I get upset and write an official letter of complaint!
But honestly, when I look for stores I want more than commerce, I want to be taught. I want to enrich my palate. I want to taste an amazing wine, then I want to know what made it so delicious so I can find it again (or impress dinner guests), and that’s exactly what these stores do.
Rue de Trèves 32, 1050 Bruxelles
Our beautiful store was featured on the on-line issue of DIVISARE, an international #architectural journal. Special thanks to our designer Franco Lancio and #Arredogamma for the amazing job!!! #domenicabrussels #localitalians #honesteating #takeaway #delimarket #smallproducers #naturalfood #italianfood #europeanparliament #brussels
Domenica is an Italian specialty store about 30 seconds by foot from Place Lux. It opened up this year, so you may be asking how it ended up on this list. Here’s how: It’s not the interior, which is trendy and welcoming, two not so easily combined traits. It’s not the owners who evoke a sense class and tranquility that Italians are famous for. It’s the cheese.
Don’t get me wrong, everything in their store is amazing. From the pizza in the storefront, made fresh every day, to the wine in the back room. But it’s the cheese that convinced me. They have this Mozzarella di Bufala which will blow you away. The owners, Sara and Marco, explained that it’s made from raw milk (and magic probably), and so it’s unlike any other mozzarella you’ve ever had. Because of its short shelf life it’s a product larger importers don’t dare to import.
That’s just what makes Domenica so unique. By virtue of their commitment to quality and sustainable products they have one of the most beautifully stocked markets in Brussels. Do yourself a favor, and go get the cheese.
Avenue Marnix, 13, 1000 Bruxelles
As a Belgian in pains me to say this, but the French are excellent judges of quality. Maybe you’ve had this experience where you’re eating green beans in a roadside cafe in the middle of nowhere in France and you were so awestruck by the flavor that you had to ask the cook how they made simple beans taste this incredible. The answer is always laconic; ‘salt’ or ‘butter’.
“But that that’s impossible”, you think to yourself, “I use salt and butter when I cook beans and they never taste like this”. The real answer is that it’s the French touch. The French Touch, a stone’s throw from Porte de Namur, is less market and more eatery. That’s not a slight, it’s a recommendation for the state of mind you should be in when you swing by, namely hungry. You can eat cold or warm, but no matter what you choose you will not be disappointed. I go to the French Touch when I want to learn about a new product. Don’t hesitate to ask Sonia and Jérôme for tips either. They are firm believers in the maxim ‘seek and you shall find’. Luckily, they’ve done all the legwork, and you can profit from their know-how.
The French Touch is essentially French, in that it combines quality, novelty and revolution like only the French can. Stop by for lunch, a snack, or to discover a pastry or juice you couldn’t have ever envisioned.
Rue de Dublin 19, 1050 Ixelles
If French Touch is France distilled into a single note, then Belgomarkt is Belgium in a megaphone. In my humble Belgian opinion, I believe that Belgians have a deep love for craft. We like when things are done well, that doesn’t mean that we like everything to be done well, mind. In fact, we are shockingly okay with half-done jobs. Enough of the humility. Belgomarkt has Belgian products. Belgian vegetables, with Belgian flavors. Leeks, Endives, Pears. Belgian confiture, and Belgian pastes, Belgian meats and Belgians tastes.
Above all, it lacks pomp which gives the place a very homely feeling. I would sleep in there if they let me. Ask anyone in the store what they like most, you’ll get a welcome earful. Tips and tricks, and a treasure map to a farm where an old man and his wife raise wild boar, directions to a brewery where a honey beer is brewed in the shadow of a nuclear plant, or a phone number to call where you can order a crate of cheese and beer made by trappist monks (Sint-sixtusabdij Westvleteren – 070 21 00 45).
Next time you have dinner guests, make a meal entirely from products you bought at Belgomarkt, and let everyone bask in the simplicity of locally made foods. Vegetables and grains that breathed the same air as you, and drank the same water.
Chaussée de Louvain 251, 1210 Saint-Josse-ten-Noode
Knowing how many Portuguese readers this paper has might get me in trouble when trying to make these type of suggestions. But I don’t care, because chances are you haven’t been to this place yet. The lay out is really cool, you walk in and the market is at the back, but to your left is a little cafe. The pastries and salgadinhos are good, the coffee is great, and the vibe is amazing. I’m usually the only non-portuguese person in there, and I like that.
It’s no secret that Portugal is Europe’s best kept secret. Price-quality is their specialty it seems. It almost feels rude how little you spend for what you get. Espadal and smoked pork sometimes appear in my dreams, then I have to go to Luso Loja. They have a broad range of Portuguese products, and a friendly staff. The store is on a hill, which is another plus, because who doesn’t love a store on a hill.
I just love this place, I don’t know why. It’s one of those places that is nice to be in. It makes you smile.
103 rue Berckmans, 1060 Saint-Gilles
This little Iranian store has an amazing collection of Persian spices and ingredients. You may not know what to do with the majority of what’s in there, but you can get excellent safran at a reasonable price, which is harder to find than you would think.
I hope that some of you enjoyed this article, and I look forward to any suggestions in the comments.